Along with hype, easypaisa brought awareness, opportunities, success and questions with it. Local and International media has talked a lot about Easy Paisa, as a product, manual, features, its potential and prospects. Still there was a need to have complete insight of easypaisa from those who drive it.
Recently, ProPakistani got a chance to communication with Mr. Affan Haider, head of Corporate Communication and Responsibility at Telenor Pakistan, during which we tried to cover every aspect of easypaisa, ranging from introduction to future plans and particularly those queries which masses bear in minds.
Let’s straight away go to questions:
ProPakistani: What is easypaisa, its products and services?
Affan Haider: Easypaisa is a diverse suite of mobile banking services that have been introduced to provide financial access to the unbanked population of Pakistan. According to the World Bank study, only 12% of the adult population of Pakistan has access to formal banking services.
Addressing this dire need for financial inclusion in the country – Telenor Pakistan and Tameer Microfinance Bank came together to offer easy to use and convenient mobile banking services that would revolutionize lives across the country.
Easypaisa offers two kind of services : Over-the-counter (OTC) products, where the customer can go up to any of our 5500 plus certified merchants for financial transactions; and mobile products, where the customer can use their mobile handset for financial transactions.
ProPakistani: What’s the vision behind easypaisa?
Affan Haider: The vision behind easypaisa is to bank the unbanked. The concept behind this model of branchless banking is to bring financial inclusion to the un-served population of the country. At the same time, easypaisa services have also been designed to offer ease, convenience, accessibility and instantaneity to the urban busy customer who is always pressed for time.
Easypaisa was envisioned to be a revolutionary product that would cater to everyone who wishes to make convenient, reliable, secure and instant financial transactions.
ProPakistani: Is there any similar mobile banking service available globally?
Affan Haider: Yes, there are services available in some countries like Kenya, Indonesia and the Philippines. These are cutting edge services; not implemented as a standard but highly customized for each market. While easypaisa services have been designed to suit customer lifestyles and are not based on any one kind of product, they also entail offerings that are specific to the urban and rural needs of the country.
Only recently, international media such as CNN termed easypaisa ‘a significant development’ as it contributes to socio-economic scenario as well as customer focused convenience. When compared to other models that exist in the world, easypaisa has found distinction by having a bank on board. CNN calls it the “model of the future” for others to follow.
ProPakistani: Why should a common man use easypaisa services? What benefits are involved, which are otherwise not available?
Affan Haider: Easypaisa will allow users across the board to access convenient and secure financial services. In an environment, where most people in the country are either un-served or underserved, easypaisa promises access, security, freedom and convenience.
With the easypaisa launch, long queues to pay bills and long waits for money to be transferred are now avoidable. On one hand, it is offering a means of conducting instant financial transactions to the unserved population of Pakistan, while on the other, it caters to the lifestyle demands of the working lady, the student in the university and the busy worker, just to name a few.
ProPakistani: What is Mobile Account? What kind of services can the customer conduct through the Mobile Account?
Affan Haider: The Mobile Account is a bank account on your mobile. All Telenor Pakistan customers can activate Mobile Account on their connections. Mobile Account can be opened at any of Telenor Pakistan Sale & Service Centers, Franchisees and Tameer Microfinance Bank branches. The customers are able to deposit and withdraw money from their Mobile Account at any of 5500 plus easypaisa locations. Other than this, Mobile Account can be used to transfer money, pay utility bills and move money from 15 existing Banks in Pakistan to their Mobile Account.
ProPakistani: Do you feel that SOPs for Mobile Account, Bill Payments and P2P money transfers are in simplest possible form?
Affan Haider: Great care has been taken in the designing and development of the easypaisa products. All easypaisa services provide ease of use and convenience to our customers. Complete compliance with State Bank of Pakistan regulations is ensured. Having said that, it must be kept in mind that easypaisa services are the first of its kind in Pakistan and as the product will mature, we will definitely adapt and improve on our product design to suit customers’ needs. We look forward to feedback and customer experiences as they help us to design better, more client specific products.
ProPakistani: How will Telenor Pakistan and Tameer Microfinance Bank make sure that all security concerns are being addressed in easypaisa?
Affan Haider: To ensure that all transactions made through easypaisa are secure, four important security needs have been addressed.
Firstly, the selection of merchants through which transactions are taking place has been governed by all stringent measures described by the SBP. The merchants that we are authorizing for easypaisa have been carefully selected and are the cream of our current merchants.
Secondly, the security of all customer information is through documentation that is based on State Bank of Pakistan’s guidelines. Account opening involves verification of CNIC through NADRA.
Further to this, security of all transactions will be ensured using Unstructured Supplementary Service Data (USSD) protocol. Although SMS is the most adapted and interoperable technology, it has inherent shortcomings in terms of number of characters, richness of content and security. USSD is a lot safer as compared to SMS. Finally, Telenor Pakistan has invested in the best available mobile banking platform, which not only provides seamless integration but also ensures security and integrity of data. Telenor Pakistan recently received ISO 27001:2005 certification for its mobile banking services. The certification adds to the credibility of information security management (ISMS) for easypaisa services. The ISO 27001 certificate is awarded once the ISMS has ensured a defined security policy, a defined scope of ISMS, has conducted a thorough risk assessment and managed all identified risks.
It is perceived that EP service charges are high, particularly for Mobile Account and money transfer services, how would you comment on it?
Easypaisa products have been priced on the basis of extensive market research. The concept of branchless banking is new and unique in Pakistan. The service needs to be available across the country to achieve our vision of financial inclusion. We have an extensive commission and incentive based system for our value chain partners to ensure hassle-free provision of service. However, we also realize that the prices are determined by the market forces and in the longer run the price structure may change.
ProPakistani: Why are there Limits on deposits and withdrawals?
Affan Haider: All the limits that are in place on our Money Transfer service and our Mobile Account products are in compliance with the SBP guidelines for Branchless Banking. These regulations are laid down for the purpose of consumer protection.
We encourage our customers to open up Mobile Account which entails higher transactional limits per month than Money Transfer. Mobile Accounts are more convenient, you only need to go to an easypaisa shop to deposit/withdraw money from your Mobile Account. Transactions can be done 24/7 and transactions like Money Transfer and Bill Payment are cheaper from Mobile Accounts.
ProPakistani: It is feared that small retailers, particularly in far flung areas, don’t carry huge cash with them in usual circumstances, how would they then entertain a redemption request from an EP user?
Affan Haider: Routine visits from the sales team ensures that retail Merchants are sufficiently cashed up at all times. Also, the activity of the easypaisa merchant is closely monitored by a cash flow monitoring system that keeps a check on transaction frequency and cash positioning.
ProPakistani: easypaisa for businesses, should we expect this term in future? Any plan for merchant accounts?
Affan Haider: We already have a dedicated team of Professionals working on solutions for corporate entities. So yes, the future of easypaisa looks very exciting.
ProPakistani: Any figures on total remittance and Mobile Account, value and number of transactions? Is Telenor content with current statistics of easypaisa?
Affan Haider: We have seen an excellent response to our Money Transfer and Utility Bill Payment products. We have crossed over 6 00,000 utility bill payments and moved nearly Rs. 1 billion on Money Transfer. The response to Mobile Accounts is also good and we expect many more users when we introduce more services on Mobile Accounts.
ProPakistani: How do you see easypaisa as a brand, after 4 months of its launch?
Affan Haider: As a brand, one of the indicators of easypaisa success has been its wide spread awareness. In a very short span of time, it has become a well know name across segments. Just like Easyload quickly established itself as a brand for the top-up option, easypaisa in a similar fashion is fast becoming a standard for branchless banking in Pakistan. Within a few months of launch, the brand is widely recognized for its package of convenience and accessibility.
ProPakistani: Don’t you think Telenor and Tameer Bank should have launched Mobile Account first, instead of introducing core product after 4 months of brand launch?
Affan Haider: Most of the other Mobile based Financial Services in the world have gone forward by introducing Mobile Accounts/Mobile based products first. However, our approach has been different for a number of reasons. Our initial services were offered as Over-The-Counter (OTC) services.
There were 2 main benefits here.
One, starting with services which were available to everyone irrespective of mobile operator and bank affinity contributes towards our aim of banking the unbanked population of Pakistan.
Second, we wanted to start with services which were easy to use for the customer. This has been coupled with an extensive awareness, education and training drive, for customers, distribution channel and other stakeholders. This has translated into hassle free provision and utilization of services at all touch points.
ProPakistani: What change easypaisa services can bring to economy and country at large?
Affan Haider: easypaisa provides the opportunity to everyone to utilize well-priced, secure, and efficient financial services at the corner store, without the need to open a bank account or through his own handset with an account opened at any of the thousands of certified merchants. This inclusion into the standard financial economy will create opportunities to save for investment or tough times, to pay for services more efficiently and without loss of productivity, and to utilize more advanced financial instruments in the future.
Remittance flow is widely believed to be a strong contributor to economy. Remittances also offer significant potential to support low income and vulnerable groups in the country. They also have a big role to play in balancing economic activity in various regions by contributing to availability of resources in lesser developed areas. Currently, Pakistan’s figure for domestic remittances through the formal channel stands at $6.95 billion. It is also estimated that approximately $2 to 4 Billion is transacted through informal channels (Bringing finance to Pakistan’s poor – World Bank – May 2009). This informal sector includes hawala as well as hand carry transactions.
Usually, there are multiple entry barriers which push people towards informal channels: this includes absence of any infrastructure close to home and cumbersome documentation process. By breaking these barriers, easypaisa aims to bring the bulk of informal activity into formal sector which will contribute to the economy of the country in a substantial way. On the other hand, by providing convenience and ease of usage, a lot of associated time and travel cost will be reduced.
ProPakistani: Any words on future products of easypaisa?
Affan Haider: We have a lot more planned on our roadmap. With new offerings packaged with convenience and freedom, our customers will be able to enjoy many more services through easypaisa Mobile Account. Through their mobile accounts, within months, our customers will be able to purchase prepaid airtime, receive money from abroad, and transfer money from or to any bank in Pakistan and do a much more through their mobile handset without infrastructure or time constraints.